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(Pictures by John Peyton, late Duluth artist)


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Facts About Moose

Facts About Moose


Moose are North America’s largest deer species, and bulls can weigh as much as 1400 pounds, with as much as a five foot antler spread.  Cows weigh anywhere from 600 to 800 pounds.  There are approximately 7,300 moose in Northeast Minnesota.  According to a five year study completed in 2007 by the DNR, non-hunting mortality averaged 18%. 


Moose do not herd, preferring to be alone, or associate in small groups for portions of the year. 


Moose are attracted to areas with a lot of food to browse on, such as recently burned or blow down forests.  Moose are located by studying DNR maps where moose had been harvested.  These aerial maps are also useful for finding meadows, young forests of aspens, and marshy area favored by moose.


Moose calling requires mocking the soft whine of a cow or aggressively thrashing brush or trees like a worked-up bull.


Moose are likely to be feeding near lakeshores and marshes.


Most hunting takes place in a canoe as most moose as shot near shorelines of lakes, ponds, and marshes.


Moose antlers are scored on the Boone and Crockett scoring procedure.  Scoring is determined by spread, palm length and width, girth of beams between skull and palms, number of points, and symmetry.


Physically a moose stands 5 ½ to 7 ½ feet high, eight to ten feet in length (nose to tail), and its antlers reaching eight to ten feet above its hoofs.  The body of the moose scales down as you move from the massive chest area to relatively slim hindquarters.  The tail length is 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches.


Moose in Rut


The males become restless and aggressive in the fall, and begin their search for a series of mates.  The bulls engage in combat to win favor with the cow engaging in antler-to-antler battle.


Moose Population Management


Moose populations are managed just like deer herds.  Shorter hunting seasons are set for lower numbers and longer for higher populations.  Faltering populations are protected by special permit systems, while overcrowding is alleviated by either-sex hunting.

Calves are born in the spring, often as twins.  The calves are weak at birth, and remain hidden and inactive for several days.  Calves, as well as the old and weak, are preyed upon by bears and wolves. 




Bull moose start growing antlers in spring when they’re about 11 months old.  Velvet, an expandable, hair-like material covers growing antlers.  This velvet and the network of nerves within the antlers allow the moose to detect objects such as branches.  The kinesthetic sense (sense of their height and width with antlers) of the moose allows them to move through cover without snagging their antlers.  The spongy tissue under the velvet begins to mineralize and harden in late summer as testosterone levels rise.  The mineralization moves gradually inward and upward from the base of the antler.  The antler proceeds to calcify and become denser as the blood flow constricts.  Simultaneously, the blood vessels in the velvet also constrict, and the velvet dies and dries out.  The antler dies with it. 


Moose will rub trees and shrubs to aid in peeling away the velvet, and may even eat the protein-rich shards when shed.  The hardened antlers reveal themselves as the velvet is peeled away.  The antlers themselves have a spongier core with an outer sheath of compact bone.  The softer interior helps absorb the impact when moose are clashing antlers while trying to establish dominance and mating rights.


Antler size is indicative of a moose’s health and vigor.  A large rack is found only in mature bulls because they have completed their skeletal growth and have more energy to contribute to antler growth rather than body growth.  Rival bulls often avoid quarrels with large racked bulls as they know the bearer is mature and healthy.


As winter wears on, antlers grow increasingly brittle, and eventually fall free. 


Game Behavior and Hunting Habitat


Moose tend to favor low lying areas where there are a lot of poplar, alder, and birch saplings to feed on.  Moose especially like areas of poplar growth in the seven to ten year cycle, and other areas where there has been recent logging.  Moose feeding areas are easy to spot as the young saplings and brush will look like they were mowed off at about six feet.  Moose walk over young trees, bending and breaking them with their snout to browse on tender young tips.


Hunting Shed Antlers


Once you've found the right area where they've been browsing, walk slow enough to take in everything around you.   You have to walk slowly to be able to scour the ground and make out an antler from grass or brush.  If you find the right area, at the right time, you've greatly increased your chances of finding antlers.  Once you've found one antler, look around the general area, walking up and down trails for 100 yards in both directions.  Antlers are generally dropped within a short time of each other, although occasionally one holds onto it significantly longer.  Where a trail isn't visible, walk in ever-widening circles radiating out from the shed for 100 yards covering the area in a tight grid.  It's exciting to find moose antlers, but be prepared to carry up to 75 to 80 pounds if you find a complete set.


Fresh rubs in the area around the first find are good places to look as moose in particular often try to rub the second antler off.  One antler generally weight about 20 pounds, and as much as 40.